A Leiter Shade Of Gray: Savile Row Versus Ivy League

Recently a blog called The Suits Of James Bond paid tribute to 007’s American counterpart, Felix Leiter. The observations are hardly earth-shattering, but it is worth noting how the two tailoring styles relect the characters. “The colours Leiter wears may be the same as Bond’s,” the blogger writes, “but the styles are an ocean apart.”

So are the men.

The Suits Of James Bond cites the example of “Goldfinger,” in which Leiter is given an older and stodgier portrayal by actor Cec Linder. Linder wears an anonymous sack suit — along with buttondown oxford and knit tie — as befitting a middle-aged man working in Washington’s corridors of power. Bond, of course, wears Savile Row. Bond is also sexy; Leiter is not.

Of course clothing ultimately depends on who’s wearing it, and a different man in Leiter’s outfit might look like the kind of fearless hero that men want to be, and women want to be with.

The many anonymous sack-suited CIA agents never captured the public’s imagination like the fictional British spy, but they fought the Cold War dressed with understated confidence that natural-shouldered American freedom would eventually triumph over double-breasted Communist cardboard evil.

“Skyfall,” the next James Bond installment, opens next month. Check out the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet. — CC

12 Comments on "A Leiter Shade Of Gray: Savile Row Versus Ivy League"

  1. D.B. McWeeberton | September 4, 2012 at 9:59 am |

    And there’s this classic bit of dialogue from Dr. No, with Jack Lord, the first Felix Leiter (before he got stodgy):

    Leiter: Where were you fitted for this, Bud?
    Bond: My tailor, Savile Row.
    Leiter: Mine’s a guy in Washington, Felix Leiter; Central Intelligence Agency.

  2. I’ve seen Goldfinger a million times, but never really noticed the other guys suits. We all wanted to dress like Bond, I guess.

    Felix (in this pic), looks just like my Dad… the grey J. Press suit, blue button down shirt, and black knit tie – Dad never wore a hat though.

    Thanks for posting the deep details.

    (Just a side note. My Dad always said to “bury me in my J. Press suit”. I had the duty to carry out when the time came, and I was so careful to find all the components. He looked great!). I just so happens I’ve been going through old photographs, and I’ve come across some fine examples of my Dad, the man who introduced me to J. Press, Barrie, Ltd, White’s, and the Yale Co-op. I’ll scan some and do a post soon.


  3. I have a simple, almost rule of thumb. Ivy every day. Evening or special occasions, the spread collars, and subtle Italian suits come out. No reason, just feels appropriate to me. Kinda the same as when my wife pulls out the 3 inch (or higher) heels.

  4. Jack Lord was the ultimate in middle age cool. As Felix or McGarrett, he portrayed the serious, competent law officer. In the few episodes of Five-O, where he went undercover, he looked ridiculous wearing hip clothing. One episode, he wore a tight pair of chinos and an untucked sport shirt. He not only looked uncomfortable, but his acting was positively poor. He walked like an ape.

    Jack Lord would have looked foolish in a Savile Row suit also. The success of most of the Bonds was partly in fact that they were superbly dressed jerks. Look how far George Lazenby or Timothy Dalton went in the Bond role.

  5. Michael Mattis | September 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    Bond’s powder blue terry cloth onesy is hysterical. He’s inspired an entire generation of retired Floridians.

  6. Look at the role on that suit lapel and button down….perfection!

  7. Connery’s Bond would have benefited from much, much less shoulder. In both directions. Leiter’s suit looks great.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t quite think we have much an answer for Britain’s line-up of gentleman-this gentleman-that, unfortunately.

  9. Postscript: that is, in works of art and popular imagination, etc.

  10. Leiter is certainly the most inconsistent recurring character in the film series.

  11. He would look better without that crappy hat.

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